1. Japan plans to popularize optical fiber network nationwide 2 years ahead of schedule
Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, in an effort to promote online education and other coVID-19 response measures, will advance its plan to complete fiber optic lines nationwide by two years, aiming to make the network accessible to almost all households by the end of 2021, Japanese media reported.
Japan’s first and second supplementary budgets for 2020 totaled 53 billion yen (3.5 billion yuan) to support local governments and enterprises to improve fiber optic networks, hoping to provide necessary communications infrastructure for areas not covered at an early date. Since the fibre-optic network will also form the basis of online medical and administrative procedures, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will give up to 90 per cent of subsidies to local governments and businesses to improve the lines.
As of the end of March 2019, there are still about 660,000 households in Japan that are not yet connected to the fiber optic network. The lowest coverage rate was 91.8% in Nagasaki prefecture. Shimane prefecture was second with 92.0%, and Kagoshima prefecture was third with 93.3%.
In June 2019, the Ministry of General Affairs and Communications set a target to reduce the number of uncovered households to 180,000 by the end of 2023, covering almost all households. However, due to the impact of COVID-19, such as working at home and distance learning, the importance of network applications has been highlighted. The Japanese government has decided to advance the coverage of optical fiber network by 2 years.
Japan’s ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications intends to make fiber optic networks and fixed telephone networks a “universal service” that must be provided to the whole country.
In addition, optical fiber is also the basis of the fifth-generation (5G) mobile communication system built by mobile phone companies. More than 210,000 base stations are expected to be built by the end of 2023, about three times the original plan, the Ministry of Communications announced Thursday.
2.Japan may build 22 more coal-fired power plants in the next five years
The move by the Japanese government stands apart from the broader global push for renewable power generation. In fact, as far as the Japanese government is concerned, its “enthusiasm” for renewable energy is much lower than we think.
Indeed, after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan did embrace renewable energy. Naoto Kan, the prime minister at the time, announced that Japan would start from scratch with a new energy strategy to boost its share of renewable energy. So far, however, progress has been slow. Between 2010 and 2018, the share of Japan’s electricity supply generated by renewable energy sources only increased from 10 percent to 17 percent, with nearly half of that coming from existing hydropower projects.
Not only that, but the power gap created by Japan’s nuclear shutdowns has been replaced by coal-fired and natural gas plants. While the government plans for nuclear power to still provide at least 20 per cent of Japan’s electricity demand by 2030 (up from more than 25 per cent before the Fukushima accident), coal’s share is set to grow and it has approved plans to build 22 new coal plants over the next five years. By contrast, Japan’s renewable energy targets of 22-24% are well below those of many European countries and below the current global average.